Friday, November 6, 2015

Spinning For the First Time

On Wednesday, I had my first flight lesson in over several weeks. It was kind of long-anticipated, because I'd done my stall lesson at the start of October, and the next one that ended up being cancelled until this week was the 'spin' lesson. This time, I made sure to take my new Sony HD camera to record all of it. The video below is the result (the camera, like a GoPro, is suction-cupped to the windshield). The spin is shown in the last minute of it.

A couple of notes: The video isn't the entire thing. Unfortunately, due to the vibrations of the fuselage, it kept falling off. I replaced it twice during the record time (the falling down parts are edited out) and after the spin starts, it fell off again and ended up under the seat, so I just gave up in order to focus on the lesson altogether. That's why the raw video was only twenty minutes long, edited down to 7 minutes, and only one spin is shown.

I wasn't too worried about the lesson or what to expect, considering I now knew how a stall felt (undramatic, simple). We flew northwest, until we were essentially parallel to the Ottawa River as it heads that way, and over northern Aylmer. As the video describes, the plane was put into a stall by increasing the angle of attack on the wings - pitching upwards - while keeping the engine RPM at 1700 (a speed at which the wings have insufficient thrust to provide lift at the greater angle). Angle of attack simply just refers to the angle the leading edge of the wing is 'attacking' (moving through) the air horizontally. The stall warning comes on at a certain pitch and speed, and as that happens, my instructor, who in the video is first demonstrating the whole thing to me, greatly pitches higher to create the stall.

If you have the volume up high enough, you might hear him tell me about how he will use the left rudder. As soon as he stalled the plane, he applied massive left rudder, turning the plane greatly to the left. That caused one wing to be entirely stalled and have drag, while the other suddenly had lift, causing the plane to roll sideways and then pitch virtually straight down. Massive yaw to the left in a stall. The result is a spin.

Having not expected much drama, i.e., G-force or pressure, I was taken by surprise. As the video shows, we spun downwards in a slight corkscrew motion. The surprise for me was the G-force in yawing around, sideways, and then down. The entry into the spin, going into the incipient stage, had me yelling "Oh shoot!" in surprise. My instructor calmly says "Power idle" as he describes his movements to recover.

At that moment, the camera fell. As it filmed the floor, we stopped spinning and just continued, stalled, downwards. You can hear the engine RPM go up as it fades to black. We're recovering from the stall and flying again. At that moment, my arms felt ridiculously heavy as G-force weighed me in my seat. The experience was a lot more dramatic than I expected.

I underestimated how it would feel because of everything I read: Speed is constant, not erratic, and kind of lazy; forces are 'above normal' but consistent. Cessna 172s are extremely balanced aircraft, easy to recover (they're also, pointedly, spin-certified). We'd be recovering from the edge of the first stage in spin development, not doing the whole thing (there are three stages - Incipient stage, Fully Developed, and recovery, with 'fully developed' lasting as long as six spins). We spun about three times.

I kind of know how it felt to be a GoPro on my old AR.Drone when it fell out of the sky, except that it fell a bit more erratically.

That video shows up to the beginning of the fully developed stage before it fell. After he demonstrated, we did two more of these spins - one with the two of us doing it together (I forgot half of what he'd explained the first time due to surprise) and the last with me recovering largely on my own. It's relatively simple - keep the yoke (control column) back, reduce power to idle, apply opposite (so right) rudder until the spin stops, then back to neutral, put the yoke slightly forward, add power, then pull back to return to climbing. Keeping the yoke back helps put the plane in a more horizontal position after it stop spinning, and then putting it forward ensures the angle of attack isn't too great on the wings, avoiding a second stall. The power gives the thrust and therefore speed, so you can start climbing back up.

I didn't feel too good afterwards, but that was largely because my instructor almost immediately went on to demonstrate a spiral for the next lesson, next week. It sounds similar to a spin, but it isn't except in the sense that you're flying in an ever-smaller circle while also descending. There's no rolling, and almost no G-force, yet your speed is increasing as the bank angle gets steeper and steeper until the plane either disintegrates under the strain or you hit the ground.

I'm glad I got this video, and I intend on filming the rest of my flight lessons like this (though I'll find a different method of camera application to the plane than suction-cup). It's quite amazing to see the Quebec countryside spinning below, straight ahead like that. We were at least 3,500 feet up in order to recover from this, and thankfully, I won't have to do this again in my lessons (or the flight test). The only thing is that I may feel that I should review and do more in the future, to remember the proper steps in recovering (and, as other pilots say, to entirely get used to the sensation to the point it's no more uncomfortable than any other flight maneuver). Something my instructor mentioned that was interesting and made sense was that people who crash from spins aren't those who inadvertently enter one and immediately try to recover, but rather those who intentionally cause a spin to show their passengers; usually the weight distribution is off, and recovery has a different nature, takes longer, and/or isn't possible.

Of anyone around me that I know, most of them don't even like flying or heights to begin with, so I highly, highly doubt I'll ever get the inclination to intentionally induce a spin just to show off. In fact, probably never. No, never. That can be left to the aerobatic pilots.

I think I will want to practice a spin again in the future, just to ensure I can recover from it, but otherwise, I think this picture will do for me more than not.
Managed to figure out that the road from top to bottom of the image is Highway 148, with the one coming in from the left is Chemin Alary.

That was one "spin class" to remember.

Red Cloud

Monday, October 26, 2015

No More Chipmunk

On Thanksgiving Monday, I reached another milestone in my life that just about everyone who has a car should or has, and got into a car accident.

I had dropped my mother off somewhere for dinner and had to get to work by 3pm. I was working the holiday in order to get the extra money, something I crave thanks to the flying lessons. Five days a week is enough, but it's nice to get an opportunity to gain something rather than barely making more than breaking even. It was almost ten to three. My mind wandered to the time I had left, which meant I realized too late the car ahead had stopped altogether. My brakes couldn't bring me from over 80km/h to zero in the distance I'd already closed, so I got to have that experience.

It was just me and the dog in the car. I jittered in my seat upon impact; the dog rolled over in the back. The airbag went off, but there wasn't enough force for me to actually face-plant into it. In the end, I was four hours late for work (nobody expected me to come in upon hearing about the crash, but I wasn't losing whatever money I had left to earn).

This happened, as it turns out, twelve days after the final payment was made on the car. It was entirely ours for twelve days.

It happened on Prince of Whales, outside the city. Greenbank Road was closed off between Barnsdale and Kilbirnie, a residential street in Stonebridge. I had to continue north on Prince of Whales to alternatively use Jockvale Road to get home. Had the road not been closed, it probably wouldn't have happened. But, because there's a gas station at the corner of Barnsdale and Prince of Whales, with an entrance/exit onto both, and because the road I was on does not widen to accommodate a left-turn lane, cars have to stop in the north bound lane to turn while waiting for southbound traffic to pass. That's how the situation evolved. Of course, I'm not blaming the absence of a turn lane or a road detour or a gas station for why I rear-ended someone. I just became focused elsewhere at the wrong place and time.

Anyway, it's unfortunately the end of the car. The airbag deployed. Whether or not I actually needed it is beside the point - replacing it costs the same as the car itself. Thankfully, the car in front of me suffered very minor visible damage while my car lost its face. As a result, insurance wrote it off. I can give my car a time-line:

'09 Toyota Yaris, black: Oct. 3rd, 2012 - Oct. 12th, 2015.

Of course, the first date refers to when I came into ownership of it. Obviously its service start date would be sometime in 2009. It lived for six years, firstly for an owner somewhere in Quebec, and then the majority of its life up to that day was spent with me behind the wheel.

I want to focus largely on the life the car had prior to my ruining it. I have a lot of memories of ground I covered with it. It was our intention that we got a car once I passed my G2 entrance exam. I finally dealt with that in early September 2012, then we spent a week looking online until we found a car at the Toyota dealership on Merivale. Upon arrival, the car wasn't actually there, but this one was, so my grandpa test-drove it. Afterwards, we went ahead and bought it. Almost a week later, we picked it up. October 3rd. It was a great deal - three years old, only 42,000 kilometres on it, only $9,995, automatic.

The first place I drove with it was my grandparent's. The intention was for me to get comfortable driving it for the first time. Ironically, coming back, we took the exact same route I ended up taking the day of the accident. I didn't bother using the car to go to work, considering the tiny distance, and I still largely took the bus to Algonquin for my Photography program. In fact, it was a slow transition between taking the bus and driving and parking on residential streets. Eventually, I stopped altogether and just drove. As winter came, the same went for going to work. Driving to school proved more useful because there were shooting assignments that required I be on location, so I could just pack equipment into the car and use the Queensway to get downtown. I fulfilled the requirements for driving on a highway during the G2 period almost daily.

A few times during the winter, I just toured around during the night, driving randomly like I used to do on the bike in the summer if I hadn't been to certain part of neighbourhood before. Sometimes I brought my camera and did some nighttime long-exposure stuff - I could go distances now, and not have to worry about carrying a frozen metal tripod in my hands considering the winter temperatures. That led to the creation of a Facebook album of such images. I would do that a few more times during the spring.

2013 was a good year for driving. I packed all of my mics and instruments up and went to my friend's place that summer and spent the day doing demos (the 'July Sessions'). I drove a friend and two cousins on my birthday to a restaurant for lunch, and commuted between home and downtown early that fall with a new girl friend I met through returning to Prof. Writing. Those were very good days, driving with her and other friends; I saw my friend Brent way more often because I could pick him up and do stuff with him rather than having to meet somewhere via bus. The city was at my feet. In 2014, I drove it with my mother down to Sandbanks. There's quite a variety of places and memories and times, from being able to stay at Algonquin until 4am in the morning, editing images with Arthur (and then driving him home) to driving to the Rockcliffe Flying Club this summer and Fall to fly and take my ground school classes. There were on-location photoshoots, lunches, trips with the dog to the Manotick dog park, driving my paternal grandpa downtown to meet my father for lunch, driving to Hog's Back Falls with a spontaneous, mysterious Serbian girl, getting on top of the car to do a long exposure of a neighbourhood street, even showing up driving along a residential street in the Bing! Maps satellite imagery. Many time-lapse videos and point-of-view shots taken with my GoPro, and pleasant, soothing night drives past the bottom end of the airport. I discovered and re-discovered so many great songs on the radio in that car. They're virtually countless in number.

Moving on. We do have a new car. This past weekend, I test-drove three different Toyota cars - one Prius-C, a 2010 Matrix, and a 2014 Yaris - the exact same make I just had. I disliked the Prius, fared okay with the Matrix, and preferred the Yaris over the other two easily. I guess it's just a comfortable, familiar car to drive, despite being an updated model. The five-year difference means quite a change to the exterior design of the car from front to back, and the dashboard is quite different. We ended up choosing the Yaris; the Prius was too expensive, and I just found the Matrix nothing to be interested in or excited about. I much preferred the ride style of the Yaris - the seats pump up, so I'm sitting high and angled forward slightly. Plus, when you turn the key in the ignition, you know the car is actually on with the validation of a revving engine; you only get dashboard lights to tell you that the Prius is actually running. The saleswoman had to explain it to me after I turned the ignition twice in perplexity.

I'm sad to know that the car I drove for three years and had so many good times in will be taken apart and scrapped. It was a great car. On the other hand, it was a base model; there was no air conditioning, no power locks or windows, no current auxilery stuff except for a jack. The only power-assisted gadgets on the car were for steering, braking, and adjusting the door mirrors. It was black. In the summer, all the windows had to always be down, otherwise you'd melt. I recall driving with my friend Duncan from his place to mine to retrieve a couple of things for our demo session that I'd forgotten. It was rush hour, and it was early July. We sat in queue on roads and at lights, melting, for over forty-five minutes there and back. All the windows were down, but we weren't moving very often, and hot, humid air blowing in the car is hardly much of a coolant. Even parked in the shade, if the windows weren't mostly down, you'd be getting into an oven.

I'm looking forward to having a recent car with AC, power windows, power locks, new style, and even buttons on the steering wheel that include BlueTooth. It's unfortunate that what happened happened, but I'll still have the same radio and the same friends (most of them) and many more experiences and ground to have/cover. Plus, I have the experience and wisdom of how accidents happen (very, very quickly) so the next time I end up in a crash, I shouldn't be at fault. I'll be the one rear-ended or whatever it is. Hopefully that never happens.

Goodbye, Chipmunk.

Red Cloud

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Creativity Verses Self-Indulgence

I'm going to make this short and quick, as I due have time constraints and I want to avoid my usual wordiness.

There are some music videos out there that are really creative and interesting or inspiring, and then there are the ones that are pointless, self-conscious, silly, or, worst of all, hugely self-indulgent and showy. I don't mean showy as in bombastic and action-filled, with juggling chainsaws and fireworks, but showy as in "look at me! Look at how amazing I am!"

I'm writing this because I have two great examples in mind, and I wanted to critique them somewhat. I'll start with the creative end of the spectrum.

This isn't the most creative video in the world, and there are definitely others that are just as or more creative (see 'Let Forever Be' by the Chemical Brothers) but it's still a great example. The best creative videos are the simple ones (complex is neat as well, but it can be taking it to the implausible level). In this example, the lead singer wanders through a dark studio filled with artefacts, backgrounds, and scenery, seemingly walking something of a distance until he meets up with the rest of the band, and the camera pulls out to reveal the relatively short distance he walked - more like a semi-circle, with tricks like studio lighting and the way the camera kept his pace. The very atmosphere and setting of the video distills its creativity.

The self-indulgent side:

As I said above, this isn't the worst, and others are just like it, but it's the most severe example I can think of right now. I actually want to say it's the worst, except I've seen worse ones in the past. I believe.

I actually find it kind of funny that I once liked this. I would still like it if it were an instrumental, and even then, it would still feel like a bit of a guilty pleasure because it sounds so steeped in indie-alternative, and that's a genre I don't really relate to; I felt like I was having my 'first time' in liking it and talking about it to my peers, because I was excited about something they were already immersed in and seemed 'cool' about. It's mildly mortifying to think I once referred to it erroneously as "pumped up with kicks" - I guess I was happy that I liked something then-current that everyone around me listened to to the point of screwing up the title. Hence the "first time" metaphor. I personally dislike acting or trying to adapt a 'coolness' based on mass-interest in something; If I wanted to be 'cool,' I'd have an individual coolness based on character, not devotion to something that permits me under a label with others. The difference with that is you can choose to see individual 'coolness' or not, and no one would have to care; there's no false superiority or identity coming from the mass-interest type. I've gotten wordy...

I viewed this video a couple of times. As far as I've seen, it's merely a clip video of promotional material of their pressings mixed with home videos and footage that, with the influence of the promotional stuff and this song as the soundtrack, seem to impress upon the viewer how chill and amazing these young men are. It's permeated with that 'look at us' showiness as the band members sweet-talk girls at bars, drink, jump off low cliffs, travel, and come off with an overload of swagger. Finally, you add in ridiculous footage of the band playing so ridiculously hard, rocking their guitars and screaming into microphones that it makes no sense whatsoever. They're an indie band, not a hard metal rock band. They look like idiots.

The only similarity between the entire video and the entire song is the lead singer's use of a megaphone in a couple of shots. The use of which makes me dislike the vocals in the song altogether.

The lack of creativity goes further, even to the song itself. If you want a song about a high school shooting - with other children being murdered, or just the murderer him/herself - listen to 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam. The music video to that song won awards, and though it was a more complex video, it meshed with the song perfectly and poetically, when you consider the whole 'life goes on despite this' aspect of the opening shot. The lyrics of 'Pumped up Kicks' are also hardly written between the lines, preferring the more upfront obvious style - of which nothing is wrong with that, but it lacks poetry and comes off as kind of repetitive (other songs deal with the same kind of subject matter).

I could watch 'Message to my Girl' over and over and come back to it after awhile. I can't watch 'Pumped up Kicks' more than once or twice altogether. I don't need to admire those men for chilling out and simultaneously putting out an amazing record, look, there it is, zoom in on it, see the band's name? Oh look, they're standing in a parking lot, bleary, I wonder what they were up to?

One thing I can notice, before I have to go, is that today's music videos seem to be way less creative than their 80s and 90s counterparts, and way more self-indulgent. I wonder why. There's way more exhibitionism, sex, and self-admiration going around than either of those two decades. It's unfortunate. Not to mention that it's possible to be creative and self-indulgent at the same time, and back then - I think 'Take on Me' by Ah-Hah exhibits a bit of both. But either way.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Not to Kill Yourself Via Quebec

With that title, I'm not even remotely referring to issues, headaches, groans, or whatever negative effects Quebec Separatism causes. I'm talking about literally not killing yourself via impact into the physical ground of the province as a whole.

It sounds weird, but it's one of the ideas that pop into my head when I think about stalling an aircraft. I got a demonstration of it today, in my slow flight lesson. That in itself was nerve-wracking, because slow flight is the range of speed between endurance flight and stalling. You're flying the aircraft near the edge of a stall - i.e., as slow as you can go before your weight out-balances the lift of the wings. After that happens, you start falling. You're 'stalled.'

The word itself is interesting to me because traditionally it's always meant, to me, that you've stopped the engine of your car. In terms of flight and aviation, it has the same meaning - you've stopped flying - but the engine in the plane is still running. Divorcing those two is the only difference.

I've never been in a stall in the air before, excluding landing on the runway (it's the same thing, but you're inches off the ground in that case). Having never experienced it, I was anxious in holding the plane in the slow-flight attitude for fear of inducing a full stall. The stall-warning horn is sounding, the nose is pitched up, your speed is between forty and fifty knots. Just pull the throttle out to idle and pitch even higher, and you're falling. It's pretty easy to do so in that situation.

Of course, my instructor made sure to demonstrate a stall afterwards, so I still had to experience it.

This was after a couple of weeks of teasing and grinning. Once I'd become aware that stalls, spins, and spirals were all part of the training, I became apprehensive and worried about them. I asked questions over and over, all of which were similar: How hard is the force? How fast? Interestingly, everyone from my instructor to the dispatcher (also a pilot) waved them off as 'fun' and 'easy.'

I didn't know that for sure. In the days when Ottawa had an exhibition at the end of the summer, I always avoided the scary rides - specifically, rides that induce a lot of sudden G-force and physical movement, like roller coasters or those spinning-rotating things. The ferris wheel, for obvious reasons, was my favourite. I just wasn't up, in any possible way, for being spun or flung about or pulled downward. The one time my father took me, it was even worse because he got annoyed and put-off at my limited choice in rides.

The real worry I had, really, wasn't of falling necessarily, but of being pulled down by the much bigger, heavier aircraft. It's going to start falling a lot faster than I am; my terminal velocity is probably tiny compared to it. So as the end of the lesson came and the instructor, as I worried, told me he was going to demonstrate a stall, I braced myself as he went into slow flight, the horn started buzzing...and then the nose tipped forward.

For a brief second, the horizon sprung up beyond the windshield, and the trees and land of Quebec came up straight ahead. Then my instructor pushed forward on the column, added power, and immediately recovered.

I briefly sounded like I was struggling on the toilet - but it was so fast there wasn't any pull. We might as well have just dipped forward. In my mind, I was thinking, "okay. So, if that's it...can we do it again? To make absolutely sure?" Of course I didn't say that out loud.

I spent the rest of the day feeling a false sense of self-appreciation, because I lived through a mere flightless dip at an altitude of 3,500 feet that was controlled and recovered by an experienced pilot. I fell out of the sky, briefly. More like fell through the sky. More so, it was cool. I was heading straight at the provence of Quebec for a second. The practice area is north of Gatineau, around Wakefield. It was decided at likely thanks to favourably un-busy, empty airspace and a low urban density on the ground below. I guess the provincial or municipal government has an agreement with the school for use of that airspace, or perhaps that sort of thing is laid back at the interprovincial level. I find it slightly funny that, at least for Rockcliffe, students learn to fly in the province next door. At least it isn't in French. Are residents aware that light aircraft often stall or do spins or spirals over their land? Maybe some have binoculars so they can watch the students avoid killing themselves via their trees or property. Another thing that amuses me is our often close proximity to land that is actually owned by my grandfather; imagine performing a spin over that?

Today was just a quick demonstration; my next lesson is literally just stalling, where I have to intentionally stall the plane - and then recover. No doubt the end of that lesson will also feature a spin demonstration - where the plane is stalled and spun around on all its axis. Pitching, yawing, and rolling all at once. That'll be something. They say it's fun. Perhaps it actually is; I worried so much about stalling only to find it's a simple dip forward (that kind of stall, anyway) that's as long as you let it last (so preferably as brief as possible) At least I'll learn how to avoid hitting Quebec - and, more importantly, Ontario, Canada, and anywhere else I fly when I'm not landing. For now, it starts with the province next door.

Red Cloud

Monday, September 14, 2015

Low Horns

I've been bouncing between a few different songs at the moment. I haven't reviewed them except for 'Santeria,' because I'm just not up to writing it down at the moment I guess. But this recent thing I've finally listened to is powerful enough to make me want to write about it, largely for its horn section.

It's another Wal-Mart thing. It's played in the store for a few years, and I've always found it potentially good-sounding, but not particularly amazing enough to want me to look it up right away. Just likable. Two days ago I decided to look it up either way, which wasn't too hard.

I'll do a quick critical review first: It's simplistic in its lyrics. "I'm having a great day, because I've got things put together and a girlfriend, and the weather is nice." The progression is simple, but that's okay as all of them, apart from most 70s alternative rock songs, jazz, and older stuff really are simplistic. It's easier for people to listen to simple basic things. On a brief background, the best I could get from Wikipedia is that Luce, the band, formed fifteen years ago in San Francisco and is named after the lead singer's surname. The song here was one of their first releases.

That over with, the reason I like the song is its mixture of acoustic guitar and horns. It has a kind of coffee house indie sound to it, but not too much and not obvious in the sense that it's coming off as 'cool.' I actually dislike songs in that genre as they sound too alternative for my taste and also somewhat superior. It may be an subconscious reason for why I've never taken an interest in any Michael Cera coming-of-age film (as far as I know the end result of every film is of his losing his virginity over and over again, whether at the start (Juno) or the end (every other one)). This song is a bit more subtle in its execution of horns, acoustics and lazy octave-bouncing electric guitar.

What really makes it kick in for me is the latter half of the first verse: A low-sounding horn, perhaps a trombone, provides brief accompaniment. It's quiet and just deep, subtle but still obvious. It raises the horn section from background accompaniment to a centre-stage part of the song. Too often in pop music, when there's a horn section, they merely perform a background riff to raise the presence of the music, or do little fills. 'One World' by The Police is a great example, because it has horns virtually looping over and over again throughout the entire song. I like them, but that's all it is. I find a lot of reggae and ska music uses a simple horn riff that plays intermittently or constantly throughout a song. On the other hand, there's 'No Reply At All' by Genesis, where the horns are virtually everywhere, performing both the bass melody and the vocal melody, as well as adding other parts. They even sound silly sometimes (listen to the very beginning).

'Good Day' uses them both for fills as well as substance. They sort of fall in the middle between prominent, constant use that makes them leaders of the music, and being a mere riff that plays along the same progression. I've quickly found that this song is in G minor. The progression is a I-V-VII-I - a G-D-F-G. On a piano, the equivalent notes to the horn section are GF-D...F-D, D-F-F#G. It essentially plays the same notes, adding an F sharp (the bass guitar does the same sort of thing: G-G...BCD-D...D-F-F...F-F#-G). What elevates the horn section to more than just a background accompaniment is the way the deeper horn sneaks into that first verse, the fills, and the F-E-F build-up to the chorus. There's also a brief solo before the start of the bridge, and in general they get more prominent towards the end of the song. You could say they start off with that low singular trombone in the first verse (which plays its progression only once, briefly) and end very obviously.

This middle-ground is exactly what I personally like, so the song sits nicely with me. Unlike another song I took an interest in that I heard at the store a month or so ago, this one will probably end up in my big list. The other one sounded understated yet too wilful at the same time to me (it was 'Unpredictable' by...well, they were French).

Music: B+
Lyrics: B-

Red Cloud

Monday, August 31, 2015

Finger Stimulation

A very common trait of Autistic children is their use of physical stimuli to enrich their inner worlds. Usually it's a repetitive movement, and I was no exception. I don't need to go into detail about that, because anyone from my high school years no doubt pondered and reached their own conclusions as to why I was the youngest person around to have a bald spot on my head. I'm glad I haven't returned to that at such a hair-tearing level.

When I listen to music, I almost always, no matter what, drum my fingers to it. It was never something I thought much about when doing it other than that I knew I did it to a deeper level than others, and all the time. Until the moment I had close to an epiphany of what it actually entails.

What I always knew likely separated me from other habitual finger-drummers with their music is that I didn't merely drum to the beat and rhythm of the song. When my fingers hit a surface, they were very literally hitting each musical note, instrument, and sound heard in the song. If a song has drums, bass, piano, guitar, and sax, I will have a finger response to every single one of them, including each drum and often the hi-hat (if it isn't too overbearing). I don't really drum out vocals, but when I do, I hit based on pitch, syllable, and inflection.

Instrument slides - like a guitarist sliding his fingers up the fret board - would mean my fingers come down one after the other in time from the beginning to the end of the slide. Pull-ons and offs with guitar instruments that add emphasis would get an extra finger tap the same way you'd hit a snare drum with two sticks nearly at the same time. Essentially, I have an entire rhythm system that works for any sound. The word 'control' would get one tap for the 'con' part and a pull-on tap for the 'trol' syllable due to 'r's emphasis. I've had this inclination to tap my fingers to every sound in a song ever since I started enjoying music at a young age, though back then it began with my teeth. That was an entirely separate system of jaw movement. The left side would handle the bass drum rhythm and the right the snare beat, with the front doing all the in-betweens. Grinding would sound out any emphasis, which I could do from side to side or back and forth.

This may come off as pointless and something mundane everyone does, but I now realize it actually contributed a difference to my ears and interests and timing such that I can't really fathom it. If I don't tap my fingers at all, the music doesn't sound nearly as engaging or satisfying.

It's not just an accompaniment. It's me attempting to become one with the music I'm listening to, to literally lose myself deep within it and live out each note and beat. I feel like the music, activated. It delivers me to a strong synesthetic landscape of shapes and forms that I transmit through my tendons and finger muscles. It's like a direct, intimate interaction. Like I'm meeting each note and touching it, making sure it's accounted for.

As a result of doing this my whole life, I'm extremely, highly accurate. Picking up a rhythm is almost instantaneous to me, and learning a song only takes me a day or two of a couple of listens. By then I'm nearly proficient at handling each drum fill, each guitar part, and everything else. I can anticipate notes and changes in beat immediately and get them right almost 100% of the time (I approach that a few listens in, and keep that onwards).

To make it even more complicated and physically, visually in order to me, I correspond my choice of which finger to tap in relation to the previous one with my mental landscape, in which I've always used a visual high & low relationship with notes. A low E note compared to an A note will be much lower than the A. Visually lower - on a keyboard, A is to E's right if it's higher. In my mind, it's literally higher in space. Depending on how far away the notes are (after all this time I've got a refined sense of space between what my ears can determine are the right, or close-to-right, notes) I will use a finger further on the other side of my hand to 'interact' with that corresponding higher note. Because so many sounds are present at one time, coming in a constant flow, this juggling act of interaction and arrangement of which finger acts on the interaction due to the musical relationships only works in a small sense of what I'm intending to do (I've only got five fingers). Often I get it wrong - I have to respond too quickly to correspond the relationships with what I can work with, so eventually I get more accurate thanks to my anticipation as I listen to a song more and more.

This visual high-and-low space for synesthetic imagery is very much how I figure out a song by ear. I'm pretty good by now at recognizing notes themselves, so I can anticipate what that note will be and confirm it on my bass guitar, then use the space in elevation between the first note and the next to anticipate what that note may be. It's quick and easy for me to figure out. This is also assisted with the note's colour and disposition as well. Certain threesomes of notes played one after the other also give me the thought that it may be a triad based on a major or minor chord, and the pattern on the fretboard of the bass will visually show up, moving, in my mental imagery. There are movements on a bass, like triads, where I have the fretboard in my mind, each applicable fret connected like you would with dots, creating a line graph that you start and end in. These graphs are further manipulated by the synesthesia so that they're matched with the actual synesthetic sound response. Not to forget that there's more than one string and therefore position on a bass (and a guitar) to play something, so there are separate graphs for those as well.

The funny thing about all this complicated explanation is that this is just music. Day-to-day mental comprehension, the understanding of language and logic, is all synesthesia-based for me, and I can barely figure out how it works and comprehends things for me. It's similar, I find, to trying to understand how tapping a multitude of buttons on a keyboard causes letters to show up on this screen, formatted on this webpage in real-time, on this section of screen, with the pixels lighting up the characters on a page brought to this screen from a server system somewhere far away from here. And the keyboard I'm using is a wireless addition to the Mac I'm on. Tapping my fingers actually brings me in intimately with the music, expressing its personality and intentions and thoughts and emotions as an interaction through me and out between my fingertips and the surface they're hitting. I'm living it as it plays, getting close with and interacting with the personalities I see, not leaving anyone out, creating a harmony.

Music is a much more intimate, emotionally thrilling, close thing to me than I ever realized. I knew it was emotionally thrilling and close to me before - but I didn't realize I was actually acting upon this closeness and creating a real-time interaction via my fingers. It creates, in turn, an inner passion. One in which I'm creating human emotions from the sounds and projecting what I find attractive onto the them, and with my fingers, interacting with, including, and sharing that concocted passion.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Found Lost

Five years ago, I decided during May to watch Lost from beginning to end. I was bored, a bit stressed, and mildly depressed for a couple of reasons. I found an online streaming site and went through the entire first three seasons.

It was a crappy, free streaming site that used videos from multiple links. I didn't use Netflix at the time. I had no job to pay for it. So I went along with that until I got to season 4, which merely played the first episode of season 3 all over again. The second episode was correct, but I wasn't watching that without watching Episode 1 of the fourth season. So I stopped.

Three weeks ago, it occurred to me that Lost might be available on Netflix, which I now have and pay for, so I searched and immediately found it. From there, I picked up from where I left in late May of 2010.

It wasn't difficult to get into the series again, and it started a marathon binge-watch that helped me get through my first six-day workweek at Wal-Mart to offset the flying lesson costs. That was roughly how long it took me to watch seasons 4 to 6 entirely, staying up until almost 3am in the morning to get through several episodes after work.

Having watched it all in its entirety, it no longer seems complicated for me in any way at all. Seasons 1 to 3 all feature character backgrounds and presents mysterious science-fiction, sometimes supernatural mysteries of the island. This includes the convergence of the main and tail section survivors and the introduction of The Others, native inhabitants of the island that have their own mysterious, suspicious intentions.

Season 4 is all about the survivors' contact and dealings with a freight ship that has apparently been sent to rescue everyone (though it turns out its only real purpose was to remove The Others' leader Ben Linus). New characters are introduced. It also features "flash-forwards" of select characters after they've been rescued from the island, (with the character of Jack desperately wanting to return) and eventually how they were rescued. The character of Ben Linus manages to 'move' the island by turning a wheel, causing himself to be teleported to Tunisia.

Season 5 has everyone split up between those who stayed on the island and those who were rescued; on the island, Ben's action has caused the leftover survivors to time-jump back and forth to different time periods. Mid-way through, John Locke manages to turn the wheel himself, stopping the island from time-jumping, but stranding everyone in 1974 while he ends up in Tunisia in the present day. From there he is helped by Charles Widmore to persuade those that left to return, an intention of John's from the 4th season. When he largely fails, Ben Linus murders him and manages to round most of the six up (including John Locke's body) to take a flight certain to pass within the island's mysterious reach. Ultimately all six rescued end up on the flight and back on the island, but they're split up; some end up in 1977 where those that never left are living with the Dharma Initiative, and others end up crash-landing in the present day. The 1977 group are absorbed into the Initiative while the present-day group marvel at John Locke's sudden return to life. Jack ends up trying to detonate a hydrogen bomb in 1977 to prevent a certain plot element in time from happening, therefore eventually preventing the original plane crash, which he does.

Season 6 is simply an alternate look at all the survivors' lives had the plane not crashed on the island (now underwater due to the bomb). It also has an alternate storyline where instead of working, the bomb's detonation merely transported everyone to the present day. It turns out John Locke is a human form of one of the mysterious entities on the island known as the 'smoke monster' (which had taken previous dead human forms known to the survivors throughout the series) and has an agenda. Essentially, most of the island's mysteries are solved and certain character backgrounds are finally told, and in the end Jack prevents this entity from leaving the island (its intention the entire time). In the alternate storyline, everyone's story is revealed to be part of a means to bring them together to 'move on,' everyone having died individually already.

To put it as simple as possible, it's about people crashing on an island that's mysterious and haunting, etc., their dealings with the natives, their attempts to leave, their attempts to return, and their ultimate showdown with an evil entity in the end in an attempt to protect the island. With unusual elements, time-travel, and science-fiction thrown in.

I liked it right up to season six. Up to then, it mostly made sense to me. But at the same time, even halfway through season five, some things didn't add up. A big example of this is Jack's conflicting desperations. At first he's dedicated to leaving the island. Then he's dedicated to returning. Then, almost right after he's returned, he's dedicated to preventing himself and everyone else from ever coming in the first place. Then he's once again dedicated to staying on the island. He becomes Jacob's replacement, defeats the 'man in black,' and then dies peacefully where he wants to die.

I think the writers had good fun with the constant time-travelling in the fifth season. I certainly enjoyed Sawyer's reactions to the very random jumps. The character backstories were also pretty interesting. The first four and a half seasons were pretty cohesive, but after that point it just got kind of random and sudden, which threw it off a little for me. I wonder if the writers weren't quite sure what to do once they got everyone returned to the island successfully. It seemed like there was a great expectation of some sort of war or adventure or something great once everyone was back, considering it was constantly suggested that nothing could come together or work properly for the island's sake (or everyone on it) if the six that left hadn't promptly returned.

I'm pleased with the ending in terms of the select few (including Claire) that managed to fly off the island on the plane, but I'm puzzled at the seemingly random choices of characters and the unusual, overly sentimental meaning of the "flash-sideways" time-line as they call it. Some things are never explained and seem kind of hard to believe - that there's a woman on the island sometime during the middle ages that 'protects' it and raises two children to do the same, that the island has this seemingly magical light at its core, and has all this significance. It's almost treated like a character on its own.

There definitely are a lot of great positives. The storytelling in general, disregarding the randomness of the latter episodes, never really faltered within the episodes themselves. The writers manage to intertwine a lot of things at once. I highly enjoyed Richard Alpert's story, and how Jacob fits himself seemingly randomly into everyone's life. If this series was novelized into a series of books, it would make a great adventure story in terms of the characters and some of the plots - like Sayid working as a secret assassin for Ben, or Desmond's backstory.

There's a lot of great acting too. The best moments of the sixth season were Jacob's interactions with Titus Welliver's original version of the 'man in black' (it would have been so much easier if he had a name). Jacob is constantly quiet and serene and laid-back yet in charge, and the M-I-B is similarly quiet, yet insanely desperate, which shows, and almost hilariously. "All I want to do is leave, Jacob, why can't you let me leave?" "As long as I'm around you're not going anywhere." "Yeah, well, see, that's why I want to kill you, Jacob." "Even if you do, someone else will just take my place." "Yes, well, then I'll kill them too." Then he smashes a wine bottle on a log in slow-motion. Very dramatic. In a humorous, petty way. I also highly liked how, in some way, virtually every minor character save for a few were re-written into other parts just as minor but obvious and important. Like the radio person on the freight ship later turning up as Desmond's driver in the sideways time-line in the sixth season.

I congratulate the writers for handling a lot of backstory, intention, intertwining plot elements and time-travel specifics, and how they slowly reveal more and more of certain realities as the show advances. I also congratulate the actors on a very pleasing, highly plausible performance. But I will say I'm just a little put-off at how the last season was put together. It seems like a silly, slapped-together kind of ending that revealed some interesting things but largely didn't make much sense to me. The biggest issue that created this, while it provided a huge dramatic ending, was Jack's immediate eagerness to detonate a bomb.

One thing I should finally note is where everyone's been since. I can't think of anything I've seen any of the ensemble cast in since Lost finished, with an exception for Michael Emerson, who played Ben Linus; I've noticed him in Person of Interest, and I've seen Evangaline Lily in a shampoo commercial - but I can't think of anything since that I've seen Mathew Fox in, or Terry O'Quinn, or Jorge Garcia, etc. It's like the show brought together all these great actors for one performance, and then they all went their separate ways, just as minor or unknown as they were before. I have seen a few of them in films and TV before they showed up on Lost - I caught Nestor Carbonnell in The Laramie Project (2002) and Titus Welliver in Born to be Wild (1994) but otherwise that's about it.

Maybe I'm just not prone to enough pop culture to have noticed.

After five years, I've finally finished, and I can give a proper grade.

Overall: B+

It would have a higher mark if the last season and a half weren't kind of screwed up. Despite that, the writing was pretty high-end.

Red Cloud

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Once again, Boom 99.7 has come forth with something great.

I've never heard of Sublime before, not really. Wikipedia told me they were a 90s outfit, and, completely characteristic of my tastes, their genre was Ska. With some punk.

This song makes me realize why I love Ska. The Police's 'One World' made me realize I will always love it and it will define my overall taste in music to no end, and this song makes me see exactly why I love it.

It's the bass.

In Ska the bass guitar is the instrument you hear the most in terms of constancy and melody. The guitar usually plays staccato chords and now and then full melodies via string plucking, but its sound is mostly as accompaniment, or at least it sounds that way to me. Everything plays around the bass line. Also, it's often played quickly at times, sounding fretful, which I find attractive.

Since I was very young I always tended to get the majority of my emotional response and synesthetic backdrop from the bass in music. I relate to that instrument the most and find it the main reason I like the majority of the songs I like. There are some in other genres where it's almost entirely the piano providing the reason I love the music, but 90% of the time it's the bass. Its notes are deep and rooted, which I feel aligned with in terms of my own personality, or how I see myself. I guess my ears are more tuned to the lower notes of a song, because I've always enjoyed and listened to and picked those up first and focused on them. My method for learning a song by ear is always to learn the bass line first, because it almost always uses root notes of the chords other instruments use in its progression. Bass plays a C, the guitar plays a C...major, or minor, or seventh, whatever.

It's the bass and, to a slightly lesser extent, the rhythm. The drums always keep a nice steady beat and rhythm in Ska songs, and this one is perfect in terms of the speed and rhythm of the hi-hat. Perhaps it's partly why I took up the drums eight years ago...I always drum my fingers to the beat of every instrument in a song almost every time, and I have a sense of time and beat. One thing I realized when I tried to play 'One World' on the drums for the first time, a song that's full of almost random flourishes and constant changes in beat (a Stewart Copeland masterclass type of thing) I surprised myself by very quickly adjusting to and keeping the rhythm and beat mostly correct while predictably screwing up every flourish, on hi-hat and toms. It comes naturally to me.

Focusing on this song, I heard it on the radio once and found the bass attractive due to its melody. Of course, I forgot to look it up, so I didn't hear it again until yesterday, when I remembered and located the song and listened to it completely for the first time.

As I wrote above, its low-end melody made me realize what I love about Ska, and I liked the hi-hat rhythm. Deeper down, though, the bass painted a personality that seemed kind of high and low, full of very human worries and faults, and for the first time, it came off as feminine to me. My natural response was to paint a picture of my type based on the bass melody: A dark-haired, mostly round-faced girl with those Sherry Kean eyes (green) feeling and coming off exactly as this bass does. The A flat the bass plays during the chorus sounds especially fretful and highly attractive to me, and later it plays that note an octave lower - or deeper.

Despite the melody sounding kind of complicated and as a result multi-faceted and deep, it's actually quite simple. In general the bassist follows a progression (during the verses) of E, A flat/G sharp, C sharp/D flat, and B. The choruses go A, B, E, and A flat with extra notes between E and A flat that bring it down (D sharp and C sharp). Four main notes per progression, like most (if not all) commercial pop music songs. The trick to its greatness and dynamic is the bassist's adding of secondary, extra notes during and between notes of each progression. The changing of the note's depth - up or down an octave - also contributes. Because you're already going at a quick, steady tempo, adding these extra notes requires you to be quick in fretting them, so they come off as sixteenth notes added in almost at the last second, giving that 'fretful' yet dynamic, melody. All the sharps involved around E makes me suspicious that it's in E major.

In sharp contrast with the music, the lyrics are quite dark and threatening. When I first heard it I didn't pay too much attention to them though the vocalist sounded wistful. Looking them up, and reading about the suggested meaning on Wikipedia to be sure, it's actually about someone's jealous anger over his loss of a girl to someone else, using Mexican words to describe the guilty parties. "Sancho" took his "Heina" from him. This anger develops into a threatening yet pathetic-sounding, wistful rage as the vocalist talks about shooting the other guy with his 'new forty-five.' All this is set to mostly happy, easy-going, reconciliatory-sounding music. The progression during the chorus literally sounds like it's saying "Hey now, we're all happy here, let's set this all aside and forget our negative feelings." Meanwhile the singer is sadly venting his anger against this.

Some notable details: The band came from Long Beach, California, and started going in 1988. They were modestly popular and had a few minor hits in the 90s, but immediately after recording their third album (which was their first on a mainstream label) lead singer and guitarist Bradley Nowell died of a heroine overdose (on May 25, 1996 - for me, one day after my 1996 aerial photo was taken). The band's mascot, Nowell's dog, took his place in the music video. The song was released on January 7th, 1997. It became a hit - though a posthumous one. The band broke up immediately after Nowell's death. I find it kind of unfortunate and sad that the voice I'm listening to doesn't exist anymore, that the singer died a long time ago. Also of note is that the bass line of this song, the reason I like it altogether, apparently comes from an earlier song of theirs called 'Lincoln Highway Dub' from their 1994 album Robbin' the Hood. I may go listen to that.

Song: A
Lyrics: B+

Sooner or later I'll be writing a review (a proper review, not a huge look at why I like a music genre -and then the review) on a Billy Joel song.

Red Cloud

Thursday, August 20, 2015


At the beginning of July, I mentioned my intention to start the flying school at the Rockcliffe Flying Club. I've actually already started.

It's a bit of a process. In July I started cost-cutting measures like saving the data on my phone, etc. Then I applied for membership at the club, starting me on a proper course that was given to me at a later orientation meeting. After doing some budgeting and working six days straight at Wal-Mart, I started my lessons while booking the required physical for the license. That was dealt with this past Monday.

I had my first lesson last Wednesday. It was largely teaching, and then time on a flight simulator to show plane attitudes in real-time. Today was my second lesson. It was in the air.

I'm considering it a milestone, and it's largely why I haven't talked about my progress on here up to now. Today, I did all the ground checks, the instrument checks, taxied the plane, and literally took off from the ground on my own with the instructor instructing.

Way better than trying to fly a silly little drone with a camera, from the ground.

The lesson was 90% fine. The last 10% was during the descent, where the instructor took over. For some reason, I experienced motion sickness for the first time, and the result ended up on my shirt after we landed. Despite that, I had the instructor take a picture of me with the plane afterwards, soiled shirt and all.

It was an extremely immersive, all-controlling experience. We flew around a designated practice area - Gatineau, essentially - where I banked, went straight, stayed level, increased and decreased speed, and maintained altitude. It was pretty good for a first time (I wasn't all over the place, changing altitude or yawing all the time) and in general the experience was almost kind of liberating. I did use a bit too much elevator during take off - I literally shot the plane into the sky - but that was the best part. Take off has always been the best part of a flight for me. It was just the unusually nauseous landing.

This wasn't a time for staring down at the ground through the windows of course, though I used landmarks ahead to help me gauge my use of the controls. The funny aspect of this was that we largely followed Autoroute 307, which is the main highway my father has always used since my childhood to go to the cabin. I rode with him as a child on that road, and today I flew along over it as an adult. We also encountered some rain, which streamed along the windshield without being much of an issue, and looking up at the clouds just above us was quite spectacular as we were literally moving along under them - they passed over pretty quickly.

The only real issues were the hot humidity. Before take-off, I was dripping under that bright windshield. That, combined with how tense my legs were on the rudder controls (I had my seat advanced as far as possible to reach them) and my general tenseness (at first) on the control column is what I believe helped me feel the way I did near the end.

It's been a very neat learning experience so far. As I mentioned before, I find it interesting, and in general how the plane moves and stays in the air is pretty fascinating. Not to mention just leaving the ground and being able to be high above, going where you want, no buildings or ground obstacles in your way.

I just need to bring a cushion for next time. You know those people who are so short in the car, they require a cushion to sit on to see over the dashboard? I need one at my back to get me close to those darn pedals. I'm so darn short. I was able to maintain the rudder in general, but only with tensed legs applying pressure all the time, and that's not comfort or the way to do it.
Now to work another five-day week.
Aug. 19th, 2015 - First flight lesson. I.e., the first time I flew a plane.

Red Cloud


Ever since Canada Post decided to completely eliminate door-to-door delivery for older neighbourhoods that were built before the cluster-box method was implemented, a lot of reaction has come about, with (no doubt) protests about the change. And I get the point of view that says the placement of the clusters are bad. I can understand it if you don't like where Canada Post has decided to put their boxes - that is, if they're on your lawn or on a dangerous corner or somewhere far away, secluded. I just don't get the point of view that says, 'we don't like this, period.'

I'm speaking as someone who grew up in neighbourhoods that were built before mandatory boxes were added to them, where, until recently, I got door-to-door delivery. Despite that, I am strongly in favour of this change.

In this day and age, receiving mail is very rare. The only mail the average person likely gets are bills, credit card offers and junk mail. How often does one receive hand-written letters anymore? The last time I sent anything by mail was to my father and his family in Jordan - once, earlier this year. The time before that it was to my "girlfriend" in Calgary in December of 2011. The time before that...sometime in the early 2000s, to my paternal aunt when she lived in Montreal. And this was when we exchanged letters back and forth. Before that it was the 90s and earlier, when I received handwritten letters and drawings (and even a tape recording) from my father while he lived in Africa. Back then it was probably commonplace. I know my mother has old letters.

When I sent that package to my father, he didn't send anything back. He e-mailed me to acknowledge the gifts/letters. Everything he sent me he gave me in person during one of his visits. Otherwise, personal correspondence is all electronic and instant. You can choose to have all your bills and statements delivered to you online. Theoretically you could eliminate all paper mail except for the flyers and junk. Why would you rather pay tax dollars for the door-to-door delivery of junk?

Because change is so obviously difficult for people in general (I'm not much of an exception myself) Canada Post was quite generous with their boxes. There's one right in front of my house, one around the corner, another on the next can stand at one cluster and look at another one on the other street not 100 metres away. Is that so difficult? Instead of opening the door and reaching out, I have to walk an extra forty feet across the street. Gee.

I like this change. It saves money and reflects how things have changed. All new neighbourhoods since the 90s have had these clusters, so it shouldn't be such a big deal for those older neighbourhoods that have to adapt. The only problems I foresee are lighting issues (some boxes are not in well-lit areas, including the ones on my street - winter days, after all, are short) and snow removal problems. I doubt people are going to enjoy having to hike over a huge snow bank to access their mail box once winter has truly arrived. I don't know if removal drivers take the boxes into account when they're clearing a street, but I hope they do.

Red Cloud

Monday, August 3, 2015

Three Men

I should have written a review on this film when I finally watched it almost two months ago. Back in May I decided to listen to a song that had come and gone in my head for over a decade, a song that turned out to be called 'Bad Boy' by Miami Sound Machine. In terms of that song, I haven't really come back and listened to it since. I guess it was just something to put a finger on considering it came and went all that time. Nothing about it shined to me other than the bright chorus.

The song did, however, really spur my interest in seeing the Three Men and a Baby film it opened, though. I wanted to see that introduction I'd remembered, as well as properly watch something I could only recall glimpses of and read about on Wikipedia. Plus my mother's convinced I somewhat look like Steve Guttenberg. I don't really look like anyone in my opinion. Unless you count both my parents.

Before I go into what I saw, I want to mention what I could remember and therefore take from what I thought of the film's plot beforehand. The only actual scene I remembered was of these two men putting the baby in a car at a busy street side. The two men were sinister in a way, but not necessarily bad (my mind didn't label them as bad because I thought they were the main characters, so if they were sinister or bad, it was a mild, good version of it, like bad guys who aren't that bad or turn truly good at the end). There really is such a scene in the film, but the two men actually are antagonists and not the main characters. And they're about to put the baby in their trunk.

The film was also a chance to see Tom Shelleck; all I'd seen were pictures and if I think I look even remotely like someone, we share a moustache. Interestingly, the film was directed by Leonard Nimoy, so that was also a neat element.

The opening scenes were more layered than I ever remembered them; they depict not just wall drawings but the Michael character (played by Guttenberg) painting those drawings, interspersed with an overall glimpse of how all three men live in the apartment. All three largely entertain women as they come and go, etc. It also shows their professions somewhat, with Peter's (Shelleck's) architect drawing equipment and Jack's (Danson's) acting. Michael's cartoons are the main subject.

The film was largely enjoyable. The plot played out very interestingly and ran smoothly. The only thing I didn't like too much was Michael's panicky care of the baby when it first shows up (it can't be that scary) and the mother Sylvia's almost childlike dependence at the end. The plot line is very simple: Three self-interested men who have a hedonistic lifestyle while living together wind up with a baby (well, two of them at first - the third is out of the country on a film set). Two drug dealers are mixed in thanks to a favour and a mix-up, but in the end all three fall in love with parenthood and become dedicated surrogate fathers until the mother shows up. Then she willingly joins the three in taking care of the baby girl.

I don't have too much to point out or note about the film's plot or action. It delivered on what I was hoping for and was interesting from beginning to end. There were some sweet moments I really liked. The scene where they're at an infant-oriented pool full of mothers, three men carrying a baby in the water together and filming it looked quite unusual in a funny way. I would watch it again. It even made me look up a song by the Young Rascals called 'Good Lovin' that plays near the beginning of the film.

What I also largely found was that I saw a lot of stuff I almost kind of envied in a materialistic sense. The nice spacious lofty apartment, the way each guy has his own personality and interests really displayed via material items, etc. They really seem to have it made. I'm not saying I want an expensive space with all the material wonders of my interests, but I can't wait to have my own style when I do ultimately get my own space.

Film: B+

One other thing I really noticed was the age difference between all three of them - Shelleck would have been 42, Ted Danson 40, and Guttenberg a mere 29. His youthfulness does show compared to the other two.

Update August 25, 2015: I recently watched it again and realized one of the drug dealing antagonists - the one that silently stands behind the one that does all the talking - is actually Earl Hindman, i.e. Wilson from Home Improvement. If anyone's interested in seeing his entire face, it's all over the first half of the film, often smiling. He doesn't say much though...I feel like he rarely said anything in any role prior to his eight-year stint as Wilson, who talks all the time, often eloquently.

I'd watch it again. I just need a DVD of it. The TV-recorded VHS is lying around somewhere, but the VHS itself doesn't work anymore and I'd rather watch a version that wasn't 'edited for time.'

Red Cloud

Sunday, July 26, 2015

This Ain't the First.

There's a big quote on the wall in the breakroom at Wal-Mart. It goes like this:

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life"

Taking away the context - Wal-Mart breakroom, the suggestion that Wal-Mart will be the rest of your life - I find quotes like that in general irksome. Unless you've led an entirely negative, awful, tragic, traumatic life so far and have just overcome the worst of it, there's no way it can apply to you. Not in the literal sense - I've been labelled as 'literal' more than once - but in the sense that it seems to nullify your entire past, as if it doesn't count. Only today counts, as the rest of your life. The past is void.

The past isn't void if you've made mistakes and therefore have life lessons and experience to lead you forward. The only way it's void is if absolutely none of it has benefitted you in any possible way. Then you can say, 'let's start all over again. Today will be the first day of the rest of my life.' Quotes like that should be hung up over the exits to prisons or rehabilitation clinics, and I mean high-security prisons and long-term rehab places. They should be hung in delivery rooms in hospitals, meant for newborns (this is where I get literal). They can't read it but I'm sure it can make an appearance in the background of newborn photos, visible to read later in life. It would mean something there. Putting it up in an employee lounge at Wal-Mart just makes everyone feel trapped and pathetic.

Nullifying the past, with its actions and history and feelings and mistakes, completely nullifies your knowledge of how to act in the present and future. True wisdom doesn't come from anywhere else, and "inspirational quotes" like this one in such a normal setting would only, if it worked, inspire someone for the very short-term. Because it says that every day. It's there. Suddenly nothing matters but the present, regardless of any achievement or life lesson you had, and typically, in the moment, the present usually only does matter. But in terms of wisdom and experience - don't nullify how you got here. That was part of your life too. Really, the only day that you can consider the 'first day' of your life is your birthday - and then all the great ups and downs and mistakes and achievements that brought you to the present.

I wish they'd take it down. I don't normally pay attention to it, but it's hard not to notice it at least once while on break. It's in huge lettering. I have no regrets. I'm proud of my mistakes. I'm proud of my decisions, because if they resulted in good or bad, either way, I became wiser as a result. I have no feel to start all over. Then I'd have to relearn everything all over again. Who wants to do that?

Red Cloud

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I haven't written on here lately or particularly recently and I've also been going back (particularly to 2010) to delete select posts I'd written. 

The reason for this is to trim out any negative, overly emotional stuff I may have put up in the past so this doesn't look too awful for any prospective employers. A typical, good idea for someone in my position.

The outlook isn't good, but it isn't hopeless. In terms of the summer, anyway. The ratio of my applying to places, when I can, of employers responding to not responding is actually pretty good I think. But I won't go into too much detail on that. The point is to remain professional from now on.

Song reviews, film reviews, observations that aren't too personal or too radical, those posts are alright. It's just the older, more immature, emotions-on-the-sleeve ones.

This censuring makes me think of the Supertramp song 'The Logical Song': "Watch what you say, or they'll be calling you radical, a liberal, oh, fanatical, a criminal..."

It's mostly why I haven't really written recently, as I think that what I may have to say would not be considered appropriate enough. In this vein, a blog should be about what you're interested in, but written in a cool, professional, easy-to-read way. It should be written to emphasize what you know about something to someone who may want to know. It should never be written to be manipulative or persuasive in an indirect way. It should be written for everyone, not one person to hopefully read it - I did that for too long between '09 and '11. Not anymore.

I should hopefully be somewhere between this autumn and winter of this year and spring of next year, at the very latest. Preferably this autumn and not next spring. But either way, I intend on taking flying lessons by then, so that will make things fun and interesting. After all, no one is at a standstill in anything. Unless you've lost all ambition, you're always growing and changing, so one thing will eventually lead to another.

Red Cloud

Friday, July 3, 2015


One thing about my interest in aerial photography that's definitely for sure is my preference for vertical, straight-down photos.

I like oblique ones, photos taken out a side window looking out over an area. Often you get very beautiful scenes. But they don't appeal to me as much as literally looking at the ground.

I can't fully put a finger on why. I think it's because of the depth, even though you're going to get way more depth looking out over an area than just straight down. I just don't feel as high looking out. It's a rare perspective - how often do you get that high, up in a plane - but to me it's not too far from being on a high balcony or atop huge hill. It's great, but not as, for some reason, appealing or high to me.

I'm talking about this because I went on a flight today, and for the first time ever, ever, I was able to capture my own aerial photos of my house, my old neighbourhood, and other various landmarks familiar to and frequented by me often. Sure, I have Google Earth. And all my NAPL-bought aerial photos. In that I have static imagery taken a couple of years ago or more, on a screen.

Not remotely close to the same as being up there, using your own camera, with the time of the day and the lens you have, etc. etc....

I think it goes way, way deeper than that, though. For instance, for the first time ever I caught a picture of my street - looking straight down onto it. I've never seen my house with my own camera that way before. Despite camera shake (my f/stop was too high) I could make out the kayak in the yard, the blue tarp over a gardening basket, even a small white container my mother uses to collect weeds in, lying in shadow in the front yard. The new tree that was put in. The green bin and recycling bin at the end of the driveway. What I find hilarious is that the garbage truck also shows up in the image, at the end of the street, workers in bright jackets visible as they collect the recycling several houses away. I can see activity happening in that one of several images I caught looking down on the street. There's obvious context.

Plus, and this is no doubt the same for everyone, there's the whole sentimental aspect of looking at your house, which is big and homely, and seeing it as a small little landmark amongst all the others, knowing all your possessions and livelihoods are under that small roof, on that little property. Being in the air makes everything tiny, distances short. There's that whole 'getting a sense of your surroundings' and how small you actually are in the big picture - that is, the whole neighbourhood, the city, etc.

I took no more than twenty or so pictures of the street I grew up on, because today was the first time I ever got to do so after over a decade's imagining it. The open space! It looked kind of small and average to me as a kid, but seeing it from the air, it's like the opposite - it looks obvious and big, laid back. Neighbourhoods aren't built that way anymore.

Orthophotos are appealing to me because you get interesting context without anything in the way, a great perspective of distance that's true (you could look many miles away in an oblique and the perspective would make it seem much shorter than it actually is) and the detail is much greater. And for a place or landmark I know, the level of familiarity and context is so high it's extremely pleasing. And it's my own image, not something from a satellite, with ultra-high resolution at only several thousand feet. Great colour, too.

When I came home afterwards, I took great pleasure in seeing certain things that I saw from the sky minutes ago, such as the police car at the intersection near me or simply the buildings and houses. It's such a different change between sky and ground. That may sound obvious, but you really have to experience it. They're re-working the entire road behind my yard. It was so much more obvious and 'there' from the air than I expected. I saw familiar machines I've seen for weeks in their same places. It was just amazing being able to get that kind of perspective of what I know is going on.

In September, I'm going to do the flying school at Rockcliffe. You can get your pilot's licence there. I think learning to fly would be a very good thing for me. No, I can't take aerial photos and fly a plane, but I can get help. And flying is simply just interesting to me. The pilot talked to ATC at the Ottawa airport to get clearance over Barrhaven so I could get those pictures (Barrhaven is under a departure/arrival path) and we actually got over there. I thought that was cool.
Never expected to get a shot like this - exactly the kind I've always wanted. That digger at the top was there yesterday, there it is now...and the recycling is being collected. I've never got an image of my own street so high and clear like this before.

It's just the stupid camera shake. There will be other times. I have a venue now - Rockcliffe.

Check out my new Facebook Page for this sort of thing:

Red Cloud

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not Three (One)

Once again, Wal-Mart music has given me a rare bit of greatness.

In the backroom, all I could usually hear was the constant horn riff that plays from beginning to end, as well as the staccato guitar sometimes. It was great to finally figure it out. At first I thought it was a Sing solo song, but it's actually from The Police.

This is the kind of thing that speaks to me clearly and beautifully, almost entirely due to its genre. This is what makes me say "Reggae (and Ska) are my life." I love everything about it, from its musical structure to the riffs to the progression. And it's quite simple as well - just, in general, a G-F-D progression. A I-VII-V in G minor. It sounds like Andy Summers is simply rotating from G to F major chords. But considering his (and Stewart Copeland's) amazing proficiency, I'm sure he mixed in other things too.

I remember thinking at one time that 'All That She Wants' by Ace of Base would perfectly sum up my musical taste, thanks to its staccato piano riff, apparent sax and general sound, but this song does it much better. You get this 'fun' aspect from the music thanks to how it just sounds like it came from a jam session initiated by Copeland. It seems like they're just doing what they want in a jam, using that simple progression. Near the end Sting changes it up brilliantly by reversing it to D-F-G.

On top of its general essence they added a repeating horn riff, an occasional sax (which elevates it well) and thoughtful, virtually rapped-out lyrics about getting along together considering we're "all in the same boat."

It's upbeat and cheery and at the same time laid-back. That's what Reggae/ska often gives me - a laid back, easy-going tone that's colourful and clear. People seem to have these stereotypes that both genres are propelled forward by drug-inducing hippies that lie on the beach all day, or wayward types. And perhaps it can be silly or annoying for some to have someone play a piano or a guitar in short isolated little beeps rather than in long, resonating, connecting chords that fade. Maybe it's appealing to me thanks to the individual forms they create in my mind's synesthetic eye, instead of one long, always changing, connected one.

This song is virtually bathed in afternoon light for me. I get an image of tall trees looking in a northeast direction, with the afternoon sun on them, thanks to the bass and the guitar. And it's nice and long but not endless, so I can listen through it and lose myself in it without getting bored, largely thanks to Copeland's flourishing changes in rhythm and style.

Music: A
Lyrics: A-

This is a song that makes me happy in my musical tastes and interests, because it takes the genre and makes it sound so illuminating and beautiful and just laid-back and happy, easygoing. It appeals to what I love.

Red Cloud

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Simulated Escape

When I was a kid, the biggest computer game in my life was SimCity. I wasn't a big gamer - the only console I ever owned was a Nintendo 64 thing, which was older than me. My mother and I - as well as friends of mine now and then - would play the original Mario game on it, from 1985. That was fun. But other than the odd car-driving game, SimCity on the computer was really the only game for me.

I'll start with the backstory:

I was introduced to it through a boyfriend of my mother's way back. It would have been the turn of the new millennium. It was the classic SimCity he had on his laptop that wooed me over immediately. The idea of building a city was just so cool.

Over the years, I managed to acquire the succeeding versions of the game, with SimCity 2000 and SimCity 3000. I had difficulty starting the former because I didn't realize you had to click and hold to get a drop-down menu to access power lines; I'd put in a plant but nothing would be powered. I had a lot of fun with that for a while, and then a work colleague of my mother's gave me a copy of SimCity 3000. That was a whole new experience. I filled out entire terrains with high-rises; I built cities on real-life parcels of land such as Vancouver or Tokyo. One day I was feeling under the weather and managed to persuade my mother to call me in sick to school. Once she left for work, I put a blanket up over the window, went on the computer, and spent the entire morning and afternoon (and evening) playing the game.

Then SC4 came along. That was a game I craved. My mother made me work for it. I got points for doing chores, and once I got to 100, I could install the game. My paternal grandmother went ahead and bought the game for me at Lincoln Fields despite my mother's instructions, so she had to hide it from me from then on, but it was some achievement when I reached a hundred points and was given the game.

It was that version that took me the longest to master. Up to then, I'd been using cheats and unlimited funds in the previous versions to work around budgeting too much. In 2000, I just "took out a bond" every time I needed money to pay for more zones or roads, etc. They never seemed to run out (they did - but only after taking out hundreds of them). In 3000, I used a cheat given to me by that work colleague that eliminated a cost for anything, so that all I had to worry about was the fees involved with running services and facilities such as schools and water towers and fire stations, etc. In SimCity 4, no such cheat existed (there was one that magically put a thousand dollars in the city funds, but that was it, and I only learned that months after I got the game working). I had to seriously do my best to balance a budget while growing a city.

It took a year or so, but eventually I was easily filling out terrains and creating whole regions of cities. The game became something I would come to and play intensely, at all times, over moderate periods of time, and then I'd lose interest to the point I wasn't playing it at all. The biggest problem I dealt with was computer memory. We never had a computer that could run the game at its proper speed or full graphics, at least not for SC4.

Then, a few years later, SimCity was revamped and updated for another version - SC5.

I didn't go near it until I saw it on a shelf in FutureShop around Christmas 2013 and bought it because it was there. I wasn't going to buy a game I had to use online all the time. But by that point the developers had finally enabled it to go offline, so I went ahead.

This is where I come to the main reason I'm writing this post. I hardly ever play it, ever.

My view and interest of the game has virtually become the polar opposite of my dedicated obsessiveness over it from before. Ten years ago, I wasn't going to the bathroom until I couldn't hold it anymore, or eating dinner away from the computer. It's true I still eat at the computer - it's in the basement, away from the trolling dog, and I can watch TV or movies on it - but back then it was all because of the game. Everything was because of the game. I had to be playing the game whenever I was awake and not at school.

My current attitude is this: It's the perfect thing to suck the life out of you. I mean this in terms of avoiding everything in real life to sit and play the game on the computer. After updating the operating system on my Mac, accessing an account on the Origin platform EA uses (I originally created an account to download the original SC4 because my old CDs of it wouldn't install) and starting the game, I found that it was the perfect thing to take up all of your time and attention. I created a city and began learning how to play; it wasn't too difficult coming from SC4, considering that game had the biggest learning curve for me. A veteran of that game should have little difficulty with this one. The way it worked was very intriguing, the style and and graphics very eye-catching and neat. You can go to ground level with it, and literally speed up time. Building shadows move. And I was quickly finding that it's easy to enter the game and play but extremely difficult to stop. There's always something happening, always something to watch, always stuff to monitor. The big thing about SimCity - all of its incarnations - is that it's more a monitoring game than an intensive, active one. You monitor the budget, the traffic, any fires that could happen, any development that springs up from the zones you laid out. The budget. I say that again because that's probably the thing you watch the most.

I personally find at this age and level of maturity, and responsibility I should note, that SimCity is not a game that should be dove into too much. You can lose track of time easily while playing the game, and more importantly, for someone with low self-control, track of your responsibilities, to tasks or to others. It's a game best for playing when you have a day to yourself, with absolutely nothing to do, nothing to worry about, nothing to wait for, nothing that requires your attention or responsibility. This is for adults, of course - with kids, I'd actually recommend the game. In easy doses that aren't eight hours long. It's a great teaching aid to how a city functions, or at least somewhat how it functions. Your advisors can be a substitute for real-world city counsellors. Budgeting is a huge skill to learn to manage and use once you're an adult with expenses and an income. SimCity taught me so much about managing money. I know how to prioritize what needs to be paid first, and how to direct where my money goes.

It's a great game - I'm not putting it down with this adult attitude - but if I stress anything about it, it's not to get lost in it. I lost myself in it when I was a kid and younger teen - it really was like a simulated escape. Nowadays I have no interest in playing it unless I have lots of time on my hands and literally nothing better to do in the real-world. I've got a couple of cities in my game. I'll return to them eventually. But whenever I play it, I feel like I'm ignoring things that shouldn't be ignored, that I'm leaving the responsible real-world behind and eating up my time in the game. I keep at it for short periods of time. After all, you're basically going from monitoring real-world affairs that might demand your attention to monitoring simulated ones in a game, which can be just as easy to be swallowed up in.

Red Cloud

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Moonlit Driving Illusions

In the nearly three years I've been driving my car, I've come to find that there are certain songs that are just perfect for listening to quietly while driving along at night, mostly in the city.

This one's a perfect example:

It just sounds like night in the city to me. It happened to come on the radio while I was driving home after time spent with a friend. I was on Leitrim, with the moonlight shining on me from above. Then I saw the airport lights and masts, and it was perfect.

It's a smooth, cool-sounding song to me. Just the music's atmosphere. I originally thought a woman sang the lyrics, with backing female singers, but interestingly it's actually several British black men - literally black-skinned. I synesthetically get mostly nighttime imagery and scenes.

This isn't the only song that works perfectly at night - there are others, except I can't really name them because I never hear them enough to try to figure out what they are. Gowan's 'Moonlight Desires' works, though it sounds obvious. I should try and figure them out - maybe I can make a list and a subsequent CD or something so I get specific songs for each occasion. After all, there are songs good for driving in the morning or in the rain - 'Birmingham' by Amanda Marshall sounds like a morning song to me, while 'Sheriff' by Tenants sounds like an afternoon rush hour thing and 'Heart and Soul' by T'Pau sounds good to listen to in the rain. Songs for the dusk, evening, night, midday, whatever. Songs for after you've dropped your friend off and you have a bit of a drive home.

I will see about putting together a project like this, and maybe post the results when I have them eventually.

Red Cloud

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Got something to focus on, two 'new' songs I've put my ears to.

Of course they aren't new - one is from thirty years ago this year, and the other is from thirteen years ago (yeah, only thirteen years).

For the one released in 1985, it was something that has entered and left my mind lazily for the past twelve years or so, in similar fashion as songs like 'It Feels So Good' by Sonique, or 'Sour Girl' by Stone Temple Pilots, or 'Lotus' by R.E.M. Shortly after I first heard it, I recall playing a ball game with my then-friend Myles and Duncan during recess in sixth grade, and having the song blasting in my mind while kicking the ball around.

It was this:

As the background image shows, it was part of the soundtrack to that movie (Three Men & a Baby). I don't recall watching it in full, but I know my mother has it recorded from TV on VHS (something she did constantly throughout the late 80s/early 90s - we have a tub full of ancient VHSs of TV-broadcasted movies of huge range, all written down in faded pen on a label on the side). I do recall watching the movie's introduction however - which is where this song plays. It caught my eye - what I remember is a constant camera pan of wall sketches and drawings that continued on as credits showed on the screen as the song played. The song, like the wall drawings, stayed in my mind.

When I listen to it now, after having it randomly come and go after all this time, I hear exactly what my memory played - a bright chorus with a constant beat, a woman singing this "bad bad boy" refrain, and this resolution at the end. I mapped the root note of that chorus as E flat, which is a bright note/chord to use.

Like the typical 80s song, horns are prevalent and there's your typical booming drums that start the verse at the beginning. The horns are nice; the deep drum fills predictable - and the voice refreshing and attractive.

But to get critical here, there are some things I find problematic or pointless. Like the thirty-second drum introduction. You get nothing but this drum beat for half a minute, nothing else - then the deep booms come in to start the song, almost when you aren't expecting it. Deep booms start virtually every 80s pop song. Booms and horns and saxes and synths dominate 80s songs as string sections and funky bass lines dominate 70s music - while piano, tinkly drums, super-low bass lines and bubbliness dominate 90s stuff.

I find the song awkwardly put together. The progression isn't bad (the music sets the right tone for the song's subject matter) and the chorus is nice, but you only maybe hear it twice with three verses in between, a sort of bridge, and a long fade-out that's the same as the bridge - which has this annoying, faintly loud background vocal refrain of "bad boy, bad boy, boys will be boys" etc. over and over while the vocalist repeats "feeling restless," etc. over top. More could have been done to make it sound more clever and fun, because you find yourself surprised that it's already over, especially considering it may be easy to zone out during that bridge, brief final verse, and long fade out of the same. Yet it's over 4 minutes long. If I like the song, it's the chorus that shines to me, and that's about it. The lyrics are kind of silly when I think about them - "you call me on the phone, it goes ring...ring...ring-a-ring-a-ring..." Nice voice and all, just silly words.

Music: B
Lyrics: C-

Update May 28: I change my grade. I embedded what appears to be more of a remix of the song rather than the original. I've since listened to that and it's somewhat better - in terms of arrangement anyway (remixes are never chronological or smooth or linear to listen to). The music gets a B+; the lyrics basically stay the same - though I love the sensual-sounding "you naughty" line right before she launches into the chorus. And having seen the music video - what a beauty. Really.

The second song was yet another thing I heard at Wal-Mart. I've heard it a couple of times. To my surprise, the closing assistant manager gave me the name of the band even though the song had already ended by the time I saw him, so that gave me enough to lead me to the right song.

The very first thing you hear (not the ambient noise you actually first hear, the music) was what drew me in. And it came out in 2002. I'm not usually the type to go for this electronic disco stuff, or probably even album covers that are essentially crazy rainbow colours (then again, I quite like a couple of songs off of Cosmic Thing by the B-52's, and I especially like the look, colour, and arrangement of the album cover - just as rainbow-y) but it's the rare funk song that has a sound I find refreshing and clean and enjoyable. I could dance to it. I like the scratchy, tinny-sounding music progression during the "going downtown" refrain (I'll figure out the music in a second). It makes me think of long summer afternoons turning to evenings. It's D-DE-EA...AE-E flat-D. However, I dislike the male vocals during the empty drum verse, particularly the backing vocals that respond to the main vocals. It kind of sounds like he's stuttering and can't immediately remember the next couple of words to sing, and the little responses just make me think those voices are of young children. I'm not into listening to young children chanting. It turns the bit of song into a pep rally for children to me.

But the bass is fast and funky, altering between octaves, the guitar is fun, and the little keyboard bits are just as colourful and nice. The sound of the snare drum changes, which I like. The oddly-named band comes from Denmark, making them the second band from there whose song I kind of like. I say 'oddly-named' because while it's a good creative idea to pair up contrasts in a name, I find this one a little...too contrasted. Too obvious. Almost contrived in its obviousness. 'Celtic Slavics' or 'Canadian Americans' are oxymorons but don't sound as crazily apart or polar from each other as 'Junior Senior' to me.

Music: A-
Lyrics: C+

Seems I've found some great music but not great lyrics. Eh. They're songs I kind of like and may listen to more than often - at least in the latter song's case. Nice to get something new from Denmark. Other than Asteroids Galaxy Tour, the only other music I've heard from them was "Barbie Girl" by Aqua (yet another influence on how I perceive the 90s as blue). Thinking about that thing makes me laugh. I guess the Danish are pretty great at creating funky electronic stuff.

We'll see how these age with me.

Red Cloud